Like a bear getting ready for winter, college football's best players are spending these days laying on a coat of fat to keep themselves warm and nourished while they wait for their next game or spring practice, whichever comes first. It's like a seasonal layoff.
Sixty-four teams are spending most of a month or more doing nothing but practicing, eating, going to class, thinking about the holidays, eating, practicing, spending time with their families, taking some exams, worrying about where their coach will be next season, practicing and then eating some more. Only one player gets to spend any time with his Heisman Trophy, the estimable Buckeye Troy Smith. The rest have even more free time. Why is it that college football's best teams don't play games for so long?
The Nation is filled with opinions about the Bowl Championship Series, which will magically match No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Florida in the "championship" game on Jan. 8 in Glendale, AZ (but oddly, not a Bowl Game). Before that we will have bowl after bowl, some good, some bad, many indifferent. And we've given enough opinions already on the BCS "system" so no more. Well, one more and here it is: this system stinks, it's broke and we're asking FanNation to fix it.
We've had several great offerings on FanNation over our first few months about what to do with college football and its lack of a true National Champion. One of the best comes from a high school football player in suburban San Diego with a great sense of the game and a true feeling for the history of football. He is in favor of a playoff system and he gives his ideas here.
Early on, a college football player who is a valued member of the Nation (but no more than you are) gave a passionate, reasoned and intelligent case against the playoff. Here is his post, which we liked but don't agree with.
We think the playoff system works and we can't imagine there are any good arguments against it, NilStradamus's points notwithstanding.
Some arguments against the playoff include:
- Too many games.
- Too much chance of injury.
- The bowls would never go for being "diminished" in such a fashion.
- Notre Dame might not be included and there are laws against that.
Let's argue against those arguments.
Too many games: The Ohio State University has played 11 games this season and the Buckeyes' next is not until Jan. 8, their 12th. A playoff system we will offer up could mean the No. 1 Buckeyes would add as many as two games over those idle seven weeks and then wind up in a third, their potential 14th, in a championship on Jan. 8. Is a total of 14 games, too many? Uh, uh. In Division I-AA, the championship game is this Saturday Dec. 15 and will match the 13-1 Appalachian State Mountaineers against the 13-1 UMass Minutemen. So each of those teams will have played 15 games by Saturday night and they started on Sept. 2. We're talking an extra month for the bigger guys to play through a playoff so the too many games argument does not fly. Period. And if the argument is made that the players are too long distracted from schoolwork, the point comes back that most players are more focused when they're in season and that should only help their academics. I'll leave the question about whether the word academics should be in quotation marks for others to comment on.
Injuries: Players get hurt no matter when they play. We aren't suggesting that the schedule be made so that the teams play 4 big games in 18 days or something stupid like that. We're talking three or four games over six weeks or so. More taxing? Yes. Impossible or dangerous? No. And remember, Division I-AA plays 15 in less time. Don't those guys get hurt?
The bowls: Some of the bowls have allowed themselves to be diminished already in a fashion few could have predicted a few years ago. It was one thing when the possibility of a BCS championship game could be played as your bowl game in say the Rose (like last season) or the Fiesta or Orange or Sugar. Now, it's one championship game after all the bowls are done.
Notre Dame: You've got me there. It may come to pass that the Irish will not be included in our playoff. Sue me.
Finally, our proposed playoff system:
- Use the BCS voting system as established. Why not? It has lots of elements, computers, humans, actual football games. I would try to get some real input from the fans who know more about which the best teams are than lots of those voters do.
- Take the top 12 in the final vote--this year that's Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, LSU, USC, Louisville, Wisconsin, Boise State, Auburn, Oklahoma, Notre Dame (phew) and Arkansas.
- Give the top 4 byes to a quarterfinal game.
- In the first round, 5 plays 12, 6 plays 11, 7 plays 10 and 8 plays 9. Nos. 1 through 4 play the winners in the next round.
- Begin the playoff the second Saturday in December (this year Dec. 9).
- Second round Dec. 16.
- Semifinals Jan. 1 so that the participating teams go home for the holidays and regroup after Christmas and we all get some great games on New Year's Day.
- Final Jan. 8.
Details, details, details. Does the playoff use the bowls as the venues? Which bowls get which games? What about the other bowls? Good questions all and they will need to be answered. But it can work. It does in college basketball (admittedly without a bowl system) which takes 65 teams the second week of March and by the first Monday in April has a champion.What do you think? Let's hear your thoughts.
And to get you ready for the Bowl Season and to sharpen your College Football wits, we have created the First FanNation Bowl Challenge in which you will pick the winners of the biggest nine bowl games starting on Jan. 1 and ending with the BCS championship on Jan. 8. Here's the link and the instructions. So get going Nation. For the winner, an Xbox 360 and a copy of Madden 07; for a few who come close, some other cool prizes. Take some time, take a chance. What have you got to lose except maybe a few meals?